Trends: Marine Sales Grow as Inventory Balances

Nearly every aspect of retail in the boat business improved in January as dealers became more comfortable with inventory levels, reported sales growth, and grew more confident about the year ahead, according to a survey.

This story by Reagan Haynes originally appeared in Trade Only Today.

Retailer sentiment about current conditions improved dramatically to 69, versus 54 in December, and the three- to five-year outlook also edged up to 56, from 54 last month, according to the Pulse Report, a survey administered by Baird Equity Research in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Soundings Trade Only to gauge retail trends on a monthly basis.

Dealers cited innovation, new products, expansion and promotions as boosts to their businesses in January.

“After a very quiet November and December, it was nice to see a revival in buying interest along with boat purchases,” wrote one of the 78 dealer respondents. “This could be due to our winter boat show moving from February to January. Larger sterndrive bow riders (25 feet) are selling along with continued center console demand. Lower credit union loan rates are helping.”

They also reported improvement in inventory levels – 64 percent of the 78 dealer respondents said it was too high in January, compared 73 percent who thought it was too high in December and 80 percent that reported inventory levels too high in November. 

Almost half reported growth in January, 49 percent, versus 23 percent that reported a decline, an improvement over recent months – in December 36 percent said business had increased compared to 31 percent that said it had declined. 

Several commented on strong winter boat show sales and leads, though others said their regional show had been flat, reiterating market choppiness. 

More than half, 55 percent, predicted retail growth in 2020, versus 22 percent who forecast declines; the majority expected the industry to increase between 2 to 3 percent, followed by those who said they thought it would remain flat with 2019.

Government action/inaction seemed to be the only major drag on business.

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